Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Dressage Lesson and Helpful Tricks

I know you're probably sick of hearing about how happy I am with the coaching at the current barn, but I can't help talking about how great it is! I did a quick google just now so I could sum up EC's background a little, and now I'm feeling thoroughly intimidated. Long story short, her relevant credentials would be a blog post in itself. The lady is way overqualified to be teaching me! Thank goodness she's friendly :)

 I am learning so much and feel like my riding has improved more in the past few months than in my entire life before that. (Changing my riding that much is a serious accomplishment in itself and probably should go somewhere near the top of her list of accolades ;) )

In all seriousness,  I've had good coaches and not so good coaches in the past, but I've never found that happy place where the instructor is super experienced/knowledgeable AND able to communicate that knowledge well AND able to adapt the teaching style to the student's needs/goals. 

OK, I'll stop gushing now. Promise. On to a lesson recap...

But first, a pic from last spring to break the text


As the tile of the post would indicate, tonight was dressage lesson night. EC was inspired from a recent clinic and had a trick waiting for us in the form of a rope tied in a loop.

I know, your mind is blown, right? Right now you're so grateful you read this blog...so much insight, so many great tips! OK, ok,  I'll explain - it really is a helpful tool :)

The idea is simple enough. I'm sure we've all had to do the riding crop under the thumbs thing to remind you to keep your hands level and together at some point in our education. Same idea, adjust your reins to the appropriate length, pick up rope goes around pony's neck, but hold it like the curb rein on a double. The idea is to keep some tension on the underside of the neck rope. It works kind of like the whip under the thumbs, with the added bonus of making it impossible for you to pull back on the reins. Also, you still get a little independent motion of your hands, so it's a little closer to 'real life' riding. Then, focus on going forward into the contact, forward into the down transitions, NO pulling back on your reins, ever! Use your seat to slow the pony :) For me, it was also a great reminder to keep my hands up and in front of me. I saw it in action and actually begged her to teach me with it in our lesson. I knew it would help in the canter when my inside hand gets all weird.
I did a google search for neck ropes and came up with a ton of weird and wonderful things... this pic is closest to what we're talking about although the reins here look like they're being held in a way that would make life difficult. Via pinterest

And, it worked. The left lead canter was actually pretty good, and that's our really tough side. In general, Midge felt super fussy in the contact at first, but since for once I knew it wasn't me, I didn't get weird about it and just kept pushing her forward. When she was soft and forward, the instructions were to the same as a normal ride - imagine you're pushing a shopping cart ie: hands up and forward a little. And voila, by mid ride I had a soft, amazing, fancy pony! I also felt like my position gradually got more solid - I wasn't as inclined to hunch my shoulders forward since the whole idea of keeping a light tension on the neck rope sort of forces you into keeping your shoulders back and seat in the saddle/core strong.

We played a little with really collecting (like almost trotting in place collected, so amazing), then extending the trot, also the whole straightness thing which will be our nemesis forever. We can go straight in a straight line or we can bend like a banana and drift all over the place. Straight on a circle? So difficult. EC took pity on me and had us do about a million leg yields...2 to 3 steps over - then straight and forward. Repeat, alternating direction/bend. So helpful and much more friendly than entire circles. Most amazing moment? Leg yield through that super slow, collected trot to a canter transition. It created a transition well beyond Bridget's norm and would rank up there as one of the best I've ridden EVER. So cool.

SuperPony!
So, we had a great ride. I wouldn't pin that all on the neck rope. The Midge was being extra responsive to my seat and legs and still had some forward thinking due to our recent jump schools. I could see the neck rope thing not being as helpful if she was greener or in a mood, ie when exaggerated aids might be necessary. As a remedial tool I'd still highly recommend if you've got busy/'disobedient' hands and/or a fussy in the contact pony, or maybe just need a reminder to make those transitions off your seat. For someone like me on a green pony, it was a super cool way to really feel how things should be as far as my aids and position and having pony properly on the bit. Worth a try - especially for the price point of FREE - everyone must have a rope or some baling twine or a spare set of reins somewhere in the barn!




17 comments:

  1. Sounds like a super lesson. Thanks for sharing I am going to try that next time I have a dressage ride.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm happy you had a great ride! The rope sounds like a neat thing to utilize. Finding a trainer like the one you described is a rare and incredible. When I found my instructor last year, my riding began improving in leaps and bounds. Sometimes it seems like a learn more in a once a week lesson with her(I'm a working student so I don't always get to ride) than I did with my other instructor in three lessons a week. Not that the other was a bad instructor; the one I have know is just better at teaching me. She is knowledgable, and she explains why I should do what I do, rather than just telling me how, which increases my understanding. She is also great at helping me to connect with and understand the horse(she uses some bits of natural horsemanship, as well as biomechanics and dressage in her teachings). I hope you continue to grow under the instructor you have now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My coach comes at it from a similar angle and has an educational background in sports medicine ( I think). So invaluable when they've trained their own rides to the upper levels too, and continue to learn and pass that knowledge on. Sounds like your coach is amazing!

      Delete
  3. This is amazing and I am going to torture myself with this when I ride next! Sounds like an awesome lesson :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good luck! Yes, I was so pleased with how it went!

      Delete
  4. This is a great idea! I'm going to give it a go. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. This sounds like a great lesson! I think finding that correct contact is tough and I know it's something that I'm still struggling with/figuring out. Hopefully I'll be riding again soon and able to try the rope idea!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's my struggle too. So hard to find that perfect balance, particularly when they're green! Loved that the rope forced me to move her up and into the bridle. My normal default of adjusting my reins or lifting my hands just creates a never ending cycle where pony and I argue.

      Delete
  6. there really is nothing quite like finding that perfect trainer who can suddenly transform your riding (and or horse) - definitely makes it easier to stay inspired! neat trick with the rope too, i can totally see how that would help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say it was all luck, but I'd wanted to ride with her forever, so when I saw she'd bought a farm a little closer to my hometown and I was looking for work I targeted the area! I got the job, then I begged for a spot at her barn...lol

      Delete
  7. Ooohh very interesting rope trick! I want to try that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's really helped some of the riders at our barn. Good luck!

      Delete
  8. A good trainer with a program that works for you and your horse is INVALUABLE. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true! I am spending so much time and $ at the barn right now, because I feel like I need to absorb every bit of knowledge I possibly can!

      Delete
  9. Interesting with the "rope trick". It's almost like a holy shit strap, but meant for other things! LOL

    ReplyDelete